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the young, and the young are a stumbling block to the aged. Thus all classes and ages of sinners are mutually stumbling blocks to each other; yet they are all so involved in spiritual darkness, that they know not at what they stumble. They seem to have no apprehension that the friendship of the world is enmity to God, and that to follow a multitude in doing evil, is the direct road to destruction.
3. Sinners are insensible that they stumble at divine providence. God governs the natural and moral world by a constant and powerful, but invisible influence, which he exerts with great regularity and uniformity. This gives occasion to the morally blind and stupid to disregard his holy hand, and disbelieve his universal government. Ezekiel tells us that, in his day, sinners said, “ The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not.” Zephaniah tells us, that those who were settled on their
” lees, in his day, said, “ The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil." And the apostle tells us, that sinners would continue to imbibe such sentiments, and scoffingly say, " Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” The very evidence which God is every day giving sinners of his being and providence, leads them to forget, or to doubt, or to deny both. But if they do see and acknowledge God in his providence, yet they entirely misconstrue it. Since he causes his sun to shine and his rain to fall on the evil as well as on the good, and since he causes all things to come alike to the evil as well as to the good; they thence conclude that he loves them all alike, and will treat them all alike in a future world, as well as in this. Because he does not execute vengeance speedily, they presumptuously imagine he never will; and because he waits to be gracious, they flatter themselves that his patience and forbearance will never end. His goodness instead of leading them to repentance, leads them to impenitence, unbelief and presumption. Though the frowns of Providence sometimes awaken their fears, yet they more commonly excite their enmity and opposition to his righteous treatment. So that they are constantly and insensibly stumbling over both the smiles and frowns of Providence.
4. Sinners are insensible that their common employments are dangerous objects, over which they are stumbling and falling.
They are apt to think that while they are industriously pursuing their lawful callings, they are in the path of duty and safety. Their secular concerns habitually engross their thoughts and affections, and cement their hearts to the world. Though they are commanded to do every thing heartily to the Lord, and whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do, to seek the glory of God; and though they are forbidden to love the world and the things of the world; yet they do every thing for themselves, and labor solely for the meat that perisheth. But while they are habitually indulging their selfish feelings, they are wholly insensible that the ploughing of the wicked is sin, and that their worldly motives, in their worldly pursuits, are leading them to ruin. Their daily cares and concerns continually divert their attention and affections from all invisible and eternal objects. All earthly objects serve to make them earthly minded. They cannot serve God and mammon. For while they are laying up treasures for themselves, they are not rich towards God; and yet know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. They are so blind to the selfish and sinful motives of their own hearts, in their common secular concerns, that all their worldly employments are insensibly leading them in the path to destruction.
5. They are no less blind to the nature and tendency of their religious performances. Though some sinners do not perform any duties of religion externally, and of course, do not place any dependence upon them; yet there are many who statedly read the Bible, call upon God, and attend the religious duties of the sanctuary. These externals of religion they seriously, and, as they imagine, conscientiously perform, while their hearts are far from God. By maintaining these forms of religion, they are so blind as to think that they are really doing their duty, and performing a reasonable and acceptable service to their Maker. So Paul thought, before he became acquainted with his own heart; and so the young man in the gospel thought, who said he had kept all the commandments of God; and so all moral sinners think. They trust in themselves that they are righteous, and shall be saved, because they are better than oth
Their religious performances encourage and animate them to pursue a way which seemeth right in their own eyes, though the end thereof be the way to death. They have no suspicion that their supposed prayers, and duties, and good works, are an abomination to the Lord, and leading them to endless darkness and despair. Such was the deplorable case of the self righteous and blinded Jews, for whose salvation the apostle fervently prayed.“ Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for
. Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record, that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God." They were blind to the character of God, and to the deep depravity of their own hearts, which made them insensible that they were stumbling
over their religious duties, and falling to rise no more. Some of the most amiable sinners are thus walking and groping in the dark path to destruction, while they are fondly expecting
shall eventually reach the kingdom of glory. 6. The moral blindness of sinners insensibly leads them to stumble at the preaching they hear. They often love to hear the gospel preached, and cherish a pleasing hope that it will, sooner or later, prove a savor of life unto life to them. God says of the sinners in Zion, " They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways. They ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God." They often go to the house of God, with a serious intention to hear for their lives, and not to be hearers only, but doers of the word. But walking in darkness under the blinding influence of their unholy hearts, they either misunderstand, or misapply, or oppose the truths they hear. If preachers point out one stumbling block, they will blindly stumble over another. If they warn them against one false way, they will blindly run into another. If they clearly show them that, by pursuing their present course, they must certainly perish, yet they will persist in their delusion, and risk the fatal consequences. They stumble at the most alluring and most alarming truths exhibited before them and inculcated upon them. The morally blinded stumble at the very same truths which the morally enlightened believe to the saving of their souls. The apostle Paul says that the unbelieving Jews stumbled at that stumbling stone and rock of offence, which God had laid in Zion. And the apostle Peter repeats the same divine declaration concerning blind and impenitent sinners. “ Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed.” But those who hear and disbelieve the gospel have no idea that they stumble at it, and are highly displeased when they are charged with it. “Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world: that they which see not, might see; and that they which see, might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees who were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?” I must add,
7. That sinners are blind to the blindness of their own hearts, which are insensibly leading them to blackness and darkness
Their hearts are deceitful above all things, and des
perately wicked. The deceitfulness of the heart leads them to think they intend right, when they act wrong, and that their hearts are better than their actions. Though they know that their hearts are sometimes as bad as their actions, and even worse, still they think there is some goodness in their hearts, upon which they place great dependence. They trust in their own hearts to dispose them to reform, to repent, and to believe, and finally obtain pardoning mercy. And this confidence in the goodness of their own hearts, removes all fear of future and eternal misery. But if they are constrained to see the badness of their hearts, they will plead the badness of their hearts as an excuse for hating God, for rejecting the offers of mercy, and for remaining in impenitence and unbelief; not knowing that these self justifying pleas have a direct tendency to destroy them for ever. They
They are every day stumbling over their own hearts, which are deceitfully and insensibly leading them in the broad and smooth way to endless darkness and despair.
1. If sinners are so blind and insensible to the dangerous objects with which they are surrounded, and over which they are stumbling, it is not strange that they generally live so securely and joyfully. It has always appeared strange as well as grievous to the godly, to see the ungodly live securely and joyfully, though under a sentence of death, and continually exposed to the wrath to come. Job was surprised to see the wicked spend their days in wealth, in joy, and in festivity. David was grieved at the prosperity of the wicked, and could not account for their not being in trouble like other men. Amos was astonished to see the sinners in Zion live in ease, put far away the evil day, lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall, chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David, drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments. Not only this, but every other class of impenitent sinners, appear to live in more ease and security than any other persons in the world. Though sinners widely
. differ from one another in a great many respects, yet in one respect they are very much alike. They generally live without God in the world, and without fear of his future and eternal wrath. Such stupidity in rational and immortal creatures, who know that they are probationers for eternity, seems very strange, and cannot be accounted for upon any other ground than that moral blindness and darkness in which they are all involved. Though they have eyes, they cannot see; though they have ears, they cannot hear; though they have hearts, they cannot perceive; and though they are told that they are blind and walking in darkness upon the brink of destruction, they will not believe it. Though they are continually stumbling at the things of the world, the men of the world, and the god of the world, they know not at what they stumble, but imagine they are walking safely. And it is not strange, that those who see no danger, should fear no danger. Where is the sinner who fears that the god of this world, or the men of this world, or that his own heart, will destroy him? Where is the sinner who fears that he is every day preparing himself for final perdition ? Or, where is the sinner who does not live securely and even joyfully, notwithstanding all he has ever read or heard about his depravity, his guilt, or his danger? Where is the sinner who is afraid of leading the blind, or of being led by the blind? And why should this appear strange, since blindness has happened to all sinners, which makes them insensible of the objects over which they are continually stumbling and falling? The carelessness and stupidity of sinners is a visible demonstration of their moral blindness to all moral objects. Those who deny the moral blindness of sinners, discover their own moral blindness, and maintain a doctrine which not only scripture condemns, but universal observation refutes. Nothing but this moral blindness can account for the conduct of the great majority of mankind, who are crying peace and safety, while exposed to instant destruction.
2. If all sinners are involved in such moral darkness as makes them insensible of their dangerous and perishing condition, then it is not strange, that they are so displeased at having their danger clearly pointed out. This tends to interrupt their present peace and comfort, and to destroy all their future hopes and prospects of happiness. If they are once made to realize their danger of the damnation of hell, their ease, security and joy are completely destroyed. They cannot bear, therefore, to hear the plain truth, respecting their wretchedness and guilt. The experiment has been often made; and the effects have been recorded by the pen of inspiration. Sinners could not bear to hear the plain preaching of the prophets, nor the plain preaching of Christ, nor the plain preaching of the apostles. Those preachers did not make danger, they only pointed out danger so plainly that sinners could not help seeing it. It was this that excited their bitterest complaints and most sensible opposition. The truth is still the same, and sinners still feel the same opposition to it, when set in the same light. They cannot bear to hear of their moral blindness, nor of the danger